Academia fucks with your head

Sometimes I write to make sense of things. Sometimes I write for fun. Sometimes I write because if I don’t, my anxiety will eat me alive.

Today, I’m chasing the demons for reasons that, on paper, make ZERO sense. I’m freaking out this morning because it appears that I might, might, have three publications coming out this fall.

Three. Just in time for the job search.

And these are all pieces that I really, really like. Of which I might even be proud.

So this is a good thing, right? Like, duh. It sure as hell can’t hurt.

Then why do I need a drink?

Let’s go to my inner Greek chorus of negativity, already in progress:

1) None of these pubs will appear in the “right” places, according to TPTB within my department. That is, these pieces will not be featured in any of the top journals in what is ostensibly my field: rhetoric. Instead of appearing in RSQ, Quarterly Journal of Speech, or College English, they’re scheduled to show up in this edited collection and in these two journals.

2) All of these pieces are about Supernatural, in some way, shape, or form. Ergo, I imagine, they’ll be perceived as “unserious” in the minds of some (including members of my dissertation committee).

3) One of the pubs will not only appear solely online, it’ll be presented in an unconventional electronic format (read: as a Storify). Thus, its very form will further undermine its seriousness for some readers.

4) NONE OF THESE PUBLICATIONS ARE DRAWN FROM MY DISSERTATION. This fact seems to really, really bother my dissertation chair. Perhaps understandably so.

5) These pieces mark my first attempts to bring rhetoric to play in the field of fan studies.  I fear alienating (or worse, being ignored by) both sides.

6) I have to revise two of these pieces in the next 15 days. Granted, we’re at the minor changes and copy editing stages of revision here, but still.

7) Time spent working on those revisions is time that I’m not spending on my dissertation. Again, my dissertation chair will be very unhappy about this, should I choose to tell them about it.

8) One of these pieces is about Wincest. Hence, it features lots of quotes about, and lengthy discussions of, gay incestuous sex. I can see this being a problem for some hiring committees.

Ok, whew. I feel a bit better spewing all that on the screen, though there is part of me going DON’T TALK ABOUT THIS because you might jinx yourself. Ugh. Yes, I am shaking as I type this (ugh). Yes, I realize that my anxiety is totally illogical, if not nonsensical. And yes, I’ve found myself utterly unable to BE HAPPY about this unexpected development this morning, even for a moment, because of all the people I can hear in my head telling me why it’s not as cool or good or helpful as I might think it is. And that’s pretty fucked up, I think.

Academia is aces at undermining what little self-confidence I might naturally possess.

Why am I trying to get into this business again? Blargh.

I think I’m gonna go run around the block. Or to the liquor store.

It’s Like Falling In Love. But With Footnotes.

dean confused by books

Academia is a feeling of failure wrapped in a taco of inadequacy. That’s what you signed up for, believe it or not. Embrace the salsa. Sit down and write.

Continue reading “It’s Like Falling In Love. But With Footnotes.”

Zora Neale Hurston, My Ornery Queen

This week , I had my first piece of academic writing accepted for publication: an essay on Zora Neale Hurston‘s autobiography, Dust Tracks On A Road, that’ll be part of a critical anthology.

Let me say: this is awesome. As a nascent scholar, publication on the list of “stuff I’m supposed to be doing,” along with giving presentations at conferences, being an active member of our department, etc.  So go me.

And second, as a writer: this piece, this essay, is the first that I wrote in graduate school that was really proud of. That I really liked. In part, I think, because I became so fond of Zora Neale in writing it.

I’d read Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God as a senior in high school, and created a parody of the story in a short film we did for that class [for the record: I played Tea Cake.] But it wasn’t until I took a grad course on Hurston [and, by extension, the Harlem Renaissance literary movement of which she was a part] that I came to appreciate her incredible skill as a writer, an anthropologist, and a chick-ass chick.

But here’s why I really love Zora: she was a goddamn mess.

She was so creative and stubborn and determined to do what she wanted to do, when she wanted to do it [provided she could get the necessary funding], that she pissed off a lot of people. Like, almost everyone she ever met, eventually. She studied zombies in Haiti and voodoo in New Orleans and the folklore of Eatonville, Florida–the town where she was raised, the town she couldn’t wait to escape, the town she couldn’t stop coming back to in real life, in her work. She studied under Frank Boaz, fashioned messy participant observer-type studies, crafted novels and short stories. She wrote for money. A lot. She wrote her own story over and over again–and, as she said in Dust Tracks: “there was some truth in it.” She lied about her age, her marriages, her childhood.

She died alone and broke and just about forgotten.

But her words kept going, Alice Walker found her and wrote “Looking for Zora,” and Z has slowly, steadily risen back up to the place that she would tell you she damn well deserves.

So I love Zora for all her messiness, her ornery nature, for her willingness to live life her way, even if it meant making terrible mistakes and lose friends and going around being forgotten for 25 years. Because she found her way back.

Zora, darlin’, this baby step forward for me? It’s all you.

If you’re curious about Hurston’s work, I highly recommend her short story “Sweat.”